The call of mating red-tails fills the air as they gracefully swoop and chase each other from pine to oak, back to pine, frolicking, circling, diving around the house and our woods. These are our red-tails, the pair that live amongst our trees, hunt in our pasture, and perch upon our newly placed fence posts. While I say they are ours in a truer sense we are theirs. They have tended to this land longer than we have keeping rodent populations at bay and keeping a perched eye on it from high above. These two hawks have introduced unknown generations to the land before us, hatching, rearing, and giving flight to countless offspring.
Soon we will hear the high pitch chorus of hatchlings spring to life as one of the hawks descend into the nest with their next meal. Shortly after, the hatchlings will become fledglings, screaming an incessant protest to the world as they are encouraged to fall into their first flight. For a short time after that we will have a family of red-tails flying, playing, and hunting before the young hawks set out on their own. The reason I can predict this series of events is because this will be our second season of young red-tails. Somehow, beyond my ability to understand, it has already been a year since we moved here.
Lazy Moon Farm looks much like it did a year ago when we first pulled up the driveway and sat listening to the birds call and the breeze blow while we quickly fell in love. Land doesn’t change quickly, nor did we want it to. This last year has been a year of observations and small changes. It’s been a year of learning what life here is like, of drafting out ideas, scrapping them, doing it all over again. Slowly the projects we have embarked on have made it begin to feel like ours, yet there is still so much to do.
“You will not accomplish nearly as much as you would like in the first year, yet you will not believe how much you accomplish by the fifth year.”
I heard a quote the other day “You will not accomplish nearly as much as you would like in the first year, yet you will not believe how much you accomplish by the fifth year.” The quote has resonated in my heart since I heard it, and while we may have dreamed of fences, chicken tractors, goat sheds, green houses, swales, hugelkulturs, boat barns, tool sheds, new driveways and a smattering of other projects already being complete, what we have accomplished has created the rough outlines of where we are headed and even now I can see the details begin to fill in.
Our current project is the deer fencing that will encircle the top of the hill. This larger fence will allow us to open up the existing orchard and garden beds to the rest of the “backyard.” Eventually this hillside will be cut with a number of swales which will be planted with a food forest and pollination gardens. The catching and sinking actions of the swales will help to infiltrate the water into the soils, while the food forest will eventually provide shade and produce while the pollinator gardens will be a habitat for native insects.
The fence has also helped us to envision where the green house, new larger chicken coop, and goat shed are going. The green house will serve to start seeds, help carry our harvest into the late fall and winter, and even serve as a small relaxation area. The new coop will allow us to increase our flock which we will use for both processing food and brewing scraps while also getting them into chicken tractors to mow and fertilize the ground. The goat shed will likely be last on this list as there is more fence to repair before we can introduce animals into the lower pasture. Yet as much work as needs to be done before we can introduce larger animals I am the most excited, and intimidated, by this. While Eryn has her heart set on goats I am leaning towards sheep. Either way these animals will serve to mow (which is also fire abetment here), break up hard soils, fertilize and prepare the lower hillside for what may eventually be a vineyard or olive grove.
The heavy winter rains have given life to our seasonal creek. The creek used to flow straight across the property, water moving as quickly as possible from an eastern high point to the western low point. We have begun working to slow the movement of the water by creating rock check dams which the water pools up behind and small drops that drill out new pools initiating a cycle pool drop development. The slower movement of the water will not only protect the culvert under our driveway but also allow for more water infiltration into the property. The eventual addition of willow to help break up the soil and create more natural check dams will allow further infiltration.
Life here also remains similar to when we first arrived. Daylight is used for projects, playing, and exploring outside. We are firm believers in the saying “there is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes.” Soon after sunrise and breakfast I often find the boys loitering by the front door, waiting for a cue to head outside and play. It’s this transitional season right now that seems to the most exciting for them. There is uncertainty as to whether the day is going to offer another helping of snow, warm sun, pouring rain or the occasional thunder storm which is always enjoyed with a mug of hot chocolate on the porch swing. Adventures almost seem to be popping into existence as the boys play in the seasonal creek, admire the first bulbs flowering, and contemplate chasing the returning lizards mad dashes across the deck and hillside. The two of them have yet to discover boredom, something for which I am very thankful.
In this first year I’ve found that as we work I generally keep two things in mind, during the warm season the risk of fire and fire mitigation is front of mind when planning and building, in the winter it is water and the motto “slow it, spread it, sink it.” Overall I believe that these two concerns are relative to each other. The more we build up water retention and soil health the more regenerative and maybe even resilient our property will be to fire. And the more fire mitigation we engage in will hopefully allow us to never face the question of resilience.
With the rains mostly passed and the current warm weather, the grass has begun its relentless march skyward. Since we haven’t made it out to begin mowing yet there is a thick green carpet also serves as protection for the small rodents who call the pasture home. The red-tail that has been perched on the fence post just launched himself off, speeding down the hillside after an unseen prey. I cannot see the result of his dive, whether the mouse was able to stay hidden in the grass or whether breakfast was caught. I do know however that the hawks will be back, keeping watch on their property, introducing their young to it and living through another season of their lives. I look forward to seeing what this next season holds for all of us.